Malatesta Novello's Bones

In the 700th anniversary of the birth of Malatesta Novello, the research on the alleged remains of the founder of the Library began in 1812

By Comune di Cesena

Novello MalatestaComune di Cesena

Bones' analysis of the 19th Century

The first examinations were conducted at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when the city believed that it had discovered the place of the original burial: it was the area that occupied the missing church of San Francesco, considered a sacred building by the Malatesta dynasty and located in the current Piazza Bufalini.

Commemorative epigraph (1454) by Malatesta NovelloComune di Cesena

In 1811, in fact, an attempt was made to demolish the church (now deconsecrated) and some citizens helped with the finding and transport of the supposed remains of Malatesta Novello: the search began at the epigraph and the cross present outside the Church itself.

Novello MalatestaComune di Cesena

Not everyone was convinced of the authenticity of the remains found at the Church. For this reason, a commission of local scholars is appointed with the task of carrying out investigations and studies to clearly determine whether or not the remains found were those of Novello. The verdict was positive: these were the actual bones, according to scholars, of the lord of Cesena.

The alleged remains are placed inside an urn that is laid in a cavity in the back wall of the Malatestiana Library.

Investigation of Malatesta Novello's alleged remains (1454) by Malatesta NovelloComune di Cesena

New Analysis

In 2018, to establish the authenticity of the attribution of the bones to Malatesta, more analyses have been conducted, as well as to determine the diseases from which he suffered and the cause of death.

Investigation of Malatesta Novello's alleged remains (1454) by Malatesta NovelloComune di Cesena

The urn housed a number of bones (both human and animal), two leather soles, and two metal cylinders containing documents inserted in 1812 and 1905 respectively.

Novello MalatestaComune di Cesena

Given the different color of the bones, it is assumed that the decomposition took place in different soils: they were most likely collected and arranged with care and they may have been inserted, more or less erroneously, into the conservative urn.

Investigation of Malatesta Novello's alleged remains (1454) by Malatesta NovelloComune di Cesena

It is thanks to anthropological and paleopathological examination that the human bones have been attributed to a single individual. The burial, however, is to be defined as “secondary” due to the displacement of the bones.

Investigation of Malatesta Novello's alleged remains (1454) by Malatesta NovelloComune di Cesena

Moreover, their state of preservation was quite poor but it was still possible to determine that the individual was male and that the age of death is estimated at around 35 years.

Investigation of Malatesta Novello's alleged remains (1454) by Malatesta NovelloComune di Cesena

In light of these results, three conclusions have been drawn: the anthropological and paleopathological profile seems not to be in line with that of Malatesta Novello; the soils found do not belong to the individual preserved in the urn and the burial seems to have been polluted (given the presence of animal remains).

Investigation of Malatesta Novello's alleged remains (1454) by Malatesta NovelloComune di Cesena

Lastly, the bones were radiocarbon dated between 1184 and 1298, centuries before the time in which Malatesta Novello lived: thanks to this procedure its attribution to the found remains was excluded.

Investigation of Malatesta Novello's alleged remains (1454) by Malatesta NovelloComune di Cesena

The investigations described above were conducted by paleopathologist Francesco Maria Galassi together with a team of experts.

Novello Malatesta (1812)Comune di Cesena

The Documents

The two documents found inside the urn have been subjected to restoration just like the  leather soles, that represent a more unique case than rare. The first document, dated to 1812, consisted in an engraving on paper depicting the two sides of the coin with the effigy of Malatesta Novello. 

Novello Malatesta (1812)Comune di Cesena

Inside of the metal cylinder there also was a handwritten parchment.

Novello Malatesta (1905)Comune di Cesena

While the second document can be dated to 1905, also subject to restoration through various passages.

Novello MalatestaComune di Cesena

Leather soles

They are shoes dating back to the late Middle Ages. An exceptional find in Italy given their rarity. The state of preservation of the soils attests that they were worn because they were consumed.

Novello MalatestaComune di Cesena

Thanks to the refurbishment it was possible to place them along the corridor of access to the library. These contribute to the formation of part of the museum path.

Epigraph of Malatesta Novello's remains. (1454) by Malatesta NovelloComune di Cesena

In an attempt to conclude this interesting journey, the tombstone and urn have been relocated to their original location so that they can be visited and observed by tourists.

Credits: Story

Giorgia Ferrani, Università di Bologna;

Mariasole Lega, Assessorato alla cultura;

Alice Montalti, Università di Bologna;

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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